La Liga: Malaga miss out on Spanish breakthrough

Madrid: Big-spending Malaga squandered a golden opportunity to top La Liga for the first time when they were held to a 0-0 draw at Real Zaragoza.

Malaga, who were taken over by billionaire Qatari Sheikh Abdullah al-Thani last year, saw a string of chances come and go with their best opening falling to Ruud Van Nistlerooy on eight minutes yesterday.

After being put through with a majestic pass by Joaquin Sanchez the Dutch veteran`s shot was blocked by Zaragoza goalkeeper Roberto Jimenez.

The goalkeeper came to Zaragoza`s rescue again in the last minute with a superb reflex save to keep out a header from substitute Seba Fernandez.

The draw left the Costa del Sol club in sixth place, level with Valencia and Real Madrid on 10 points, but two behind leaders Real Betis who play at Getafe on Monday.

Levante defeated nine-man Espanyol 3-1 to go third, a third win in three matches to illustrate their victory over Real Madrid last weekend was no fluke.

The modest Valencia-based club have 11 points, the same as second-placed Barcelona, and trail the champions only on goal difference after a week which also saw them beat Real 1-0 last Sunday and Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in midweek.

Levante went ahead in the 12th minute with the first of Ruben Suarez`s two penalties, after Rui Fonte had tripped Juanlu Gomez.

Suarez scored again from the spot on 58 minutes after Jordi Amat had tripped him when he had a clear chance on goal. Amat was sent off and Espanyol were down to 10 men.

Hector Moreno pulled one back for Espanyol on 72 minutes but any hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed when Jose Barkero restored the two-goal advantage four minutes later.

Espanyol`s misery was further compounded on 81 minutes when substitute Walter Pandiani was given a straight red card for an elbow in the face of Victoriano Rivas `Nano`.

Mallorca got their first points since the opening weekend, beating Real Sociedad 2-1 at home to take some pressure of coach Michael Laudrup.

Victor Casadesus and Chori Castro came to Laudrup`s rescue with goals in the 20th and 49th minutes after Imanol Agirretxe had put Sociedad ahead with a clever chip on 15 minutes.

The winner came when Castro drilled a powerful shot into the top right hand corner of the net after the Sociedad defence failed to clear a corner.

After three defeats in a row without a goal scored, Laudrup was understandably happy with the win.

But Laudrup admitted that his team had rode their luck in a match where Sociedad had hit the woodwork three times.


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